Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Forthcoming Events

There are a couple of events in November at which I shall be making a personal appearance.

The first is the Ealing Arts and Crafts Fair, where I shall be selling (and signing) copies of What is Myrrh Anyway? The fair is being held at St James' Church on Saturday 7 November, and I'll be there between 10.00am and 4.00pm, apparently in a marquee outside - so pray for good weather for me!

And then on Tuesday 10 November I shall be appearing at the Beyond Words Festival, at University College School from 2.30-3.30pm. I shall be talking briefly about the how I came to write What is Myrrh Anyway? and will then be hosting a fun - but challenging - Christmas quiz, as well as signing copies of my books. To reserve your ticket for this event, ring the UCS Box Office on 020 7433 2219.

Maybe I'll see you at one or the other? If you do pop along, say "Hi!" and tell me the blog sent you!

Scrooge and the demise of the office Christmas party

Apparently, this Christmas, one in five businesses have cancelled the festive celebrations they would usually put on for their staff and half were undecided as to whether to go ahead or not.

And of course, it's all down to the recession we've been enjoying lately. Last year's financial woes led to companies cutting back on the cost of Christmas parties, but this year some are cancelling them altogether.

To read more about this tale of Christmas woe, click here.

Lego Winter Toy Shop

If you're a fan of Lego - and let's face it, who isn't? - then you'll be pleased to know that there is a brand new Christmas themed set out in time for this December 25.

It's the Winter Toy Shop and comes complete with Christmas tree, carol singers and a mini-figure that would appear to be Noel Edmonds, who always used to be on the telly on Christmas Day (although here he appears to be bothering a cat).

To get hold of your Winter Toy Shop, click here.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Stop the Cavalry!

Heard this for the first time this year today and as far as I'm concerned, it's never too soon for a bit of Jona Lewie.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Paul McCartney's Christmas Concert

Sir Paul McCartney is to play a special, one-off Christmas show in London, his first arena show in the capital in over six years.

The former Beatle will end a seven-date European tour, his first in five years, with a concert at The O2 arena on December 22.

The performance will be 46 years to the day since The Beatles played their first Christmas show at Liverpool's Empire Theatre and it will be McCartney's first arena show in London for over six years.

The 'Good Evening Europe' tour will kick off in Hamburg, Germany, the city where The Beatles played extensively before being signed.

He said: "This is my chance to bring our current show home to where it all began. Starting in Hamburg, ending in London and rocking everywhere in between. I'm very much looking forward to ending the year on a high."

McCartney, 67, has only played a handful of UK shows since his last tour in 2003, including a headline slot at the Glastonbury musical festival in 2004 and a performance at the European Capital of Culture show in Liverpool last year.

Other cities McCartney will be stopping at include Paris, Berlin, and Dublin.

Tickets for the concerts go on sale at 9am on Monday October 26. When he played in Las Vegas earlier this year, tickets sold out in seven seconds.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Cute Christmas Penguins

How cool are these guys?

To get hold of your own pack of 12 - or even 60! - penguins, click here.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Win tickets to the premiere of Disney's A Christmas Carol!

Radio Times has four tickets to the world premiere of Disney's A Christmas Carol plus an overnight stay in London to give away to one reader.

The festive celebrations take place on Tuesday 3 November and the winner and three guests will have a night to remember, attending the film premiere alongside its stars and also witnessing the first ever simultaneous switching on of festive lights - on the theme of Disney's A Christmas Carol - in the West End and City of London.

For your chance to win, click here.

Have an Exceedingly Merry Christmas

If there's one person you should invite to stay with you and yours this Christmas, it's Mr Kipling.

Nothing signifies the start of the Christmas season quite like a mince pie and a glass of mulled wine, and last year Mr Kipling produced 60 million mince pies? That's enough to stretch from London to Greenland! (He must be a very busy man.)

But he doesn't only make mince pies, he makes exceedingly good Christmas Cake Slices as well, along with Cranberry and Orange Mini Classics, Christmas Pudding Slices, Winter Warmer Lattice Tarts and Festive Bakewells to boot!

Did you know...?

Over the three key Christmas months retailers sell around 60 packs of mince pies per minute - that’s six mince pies sold per person per year in the UK. A whopping 1,900 tonnes of mincemeat goes into Mr Kipling mince pies each year; that’s the equivalent weight of 317 full size elephants! In one mince pie season, Mr. Kipling uses 190 tonnes raisins, 300 tonnes sultanas and 2,184 tonnes pastry to create these popular festive sweet treats!

But the largest mince pie ever to be baked wasn't one of Mr K's. It weighed 1.02 tonnes and measured a huge 6.1m x 1.5m. It was baked in Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Leicestershire on 15 October 1932.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

A personalised Christmas story starring your child and Santa - the perfect Christmas gift?

Being a writer myself, I'm not sure how much I should really be promoting something like this but if you would like to give a Christmas gift this year that your child will remember for years to come, then why not check out www.myadventurebooks.co.uk?

What's the difference between snowmen and snow-women?

Friday, 16 October 2009

Dear Santa this Christmas I would like...


Apparently, the humble (yet delicious) bacon butty is the nation's favourite 'guilty' food. You can read more about the sublime-smelling and terrific-tasting sarnie snack here.

And of course bacon is a vital part of the traditional 'all the trimmings' Christmas dinner. But what if you fancy something a little different this year but you don't want to go without your bacon? Then why not try this savoury Christmas roulade?

Savoury Christmas Roulade


1 pack of unsmoked bacon

1 pack of pork sausages

1 pack of stuffing mix

Preparation method

Roll out some cling film on a work surface. Place the bacon on top of the cling film and overlap the edges of each rasher so there are no gaps, thereby forming a rectangle. Squeeze the sausage meat out of the sausages (or just buy sausage meat) and spread the sausage meat over the bacon. Make up the stuffing mix (it helps if you add some butter to stuffing mix) and then spread the stuffing over the sausage meat. Now roll the roulade into a log using the cling film to keep it all together. Place on a lightly oiled baking dish, remove cling film and bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes. Remove from the oven and slice into portions. Serves 2 with roast potatoes and vegetables, or 4-6 if used as the 'trimmings' for a turkey Christmas dinner.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Ealing's leading Art and Crafts Fair

I will be at St James' Art and Craft Fair on Saturday 7 November between 10.00am and 4.00pm, selling - and signing! - copies of What is Myrrh Anyway? Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Christmas.

Admission is free, so if you're in the area, why not pop along and say "Hello"?

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

I Am Scrooge: A Zombie Story for Christmas

Looking for something a little different to give your loved ones this Christmas? Perhaps one of your family is a closet Dickens/Zombie horror fan. Well, if so, then I Am Scrooge could be the answer to all your Christmas gift-buying problems.

Marley was dead. Again.
The legendary Ebenezeer Scrooge sits in his house counting money. The boards that he has nailed up over the doors and the windows shudder and shake under the blows from the endless zombie hordes that crowd the streets hungering for his flesh and his miserly braaaaiiiiiinns!

Just how did the happiest day of the year slip into a welter of blood, innards and shambling, ravenous undead on the snowy streets of old London town?

Will the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future be able to stop the world from drowning under a top-hatted and crinolined zombie horde?

Was Tiny Tim's illness something infinitely more sinister than mere rickets and consumption?
Can Scrooge be persuaded to go back to his evil ways, travel back to Christmas past and destroy the brain stem of the tiny, irritatingly cheery Patient Zero?

It's the Dickensian Zombie Apocalypse - God Bless us, one and all!

To buy your copy of I Am Scrooge, click here.

Bah.... Bahhhh.... Brahhh.... Braaiiinnss!

Friday, 9 October 2009

Chocolate Rudolphs & Minty Snowballs

Chocolate Rudolphs

Half almonds
Glace cherries (halved)
Silver balls
Jelly strips
170g / 6 oz Chocolate

Melt the chocolate over a bowl of hot water. Spoon out dollops of chocolate onto a tray lined with greaseproof paper. Before the chocolate sets make Rudolph's face using the halved almonds for the ears, he jelly strips for his antlers, half a glace cherry for his nose and silver balls for eyes. Then simply leave them to set. Easy!

Minty Snowballs

Peppermint essence
One egg white
340g / 12 oz Icing Sugar

Whisk the egg white, adding in four teaspoons of peppermint essence. Add the egg white to the sugar and mix it all together, then form into a ball. Divide the ball into pieces roughly the size of large marbles, form these pieces into snowballs and then leave them to harden overnight. Done!

Disney's A Christmas Carol

Charles Dickens' perennial Christmas classic - the tale of the miserly Scrooge and his ultimate redemption thanks to the intervention of three festive ghosts - is coming to the big screen this November. Again.

There have been at least six movie adaptations of A Christmas Carol already, and that's not including such versions as The Muppet Christmas Carol. So why do we need another? What's so different about this one?

Well, the director behind this latest adaptation is Robert Zemeckis, pioneer of the 'performance capture' method of movie-making. In other words, special cameras hooked up to a whole host of computers record the movements of actors wearing ridiculous spot-dotted outfits and then translate that movement onto a digital model. Animators can then do all sorts of wild and wonderful things to the actors (such as making Ray Winstone look buff) and place them in a minutely detailed digitally-created world.

Disney's A Christmas Carol stars Jim Carrey in Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events mode as not only Scrooge, but the ghosts as well. Oh, and it's going to be in 3D.

Christmas shopping on the continent

If you've not been too badly hit by the credit crunch this year, then you might like to treat yourself to an early Christmas present but doing your Christmas shopping at one of Europe's famed Christmas markets.

Directline Citybreaks has some good deals on offer here.

A Champagne Christmas

Why not splash out this Christmas with a bottle or two of champagne? After all, the cost of a bottle of champagne could drop to as low as £10, as stores are forced to cut prices to clear their stocks of millions of bottles that have been left unsold thanks to the recession.

Then you could have a go at making this delicious Christmas cocktail.

Christmas Champagne Cocktail

Serves/Makes: 1

1 lemon wedge
1/4 cup pink decorating sugar
1 sugar cube
1 dash of pomegranate nectar
Chilled champagne, or other sparkling wine or sparkling cider

Rub the rim of a champagne flute with the lemon wedge, then dip the rim into the decorating sugar (save any extra sugar for making more cocktails. Put the sugar cube into the flute. Drop the pomegranate nectar on the sugar. Pour in the sparkling wine or cider to fill the glass. Serve at once.

To find out more about the champagne price crash, click here.

Reindeer Racing

How cool does this look? I mean, who wouldn't want to be pulled along, on skis, over snow by a galloping reindeer?

Having missed out on the opportunity to become a cross-country reindeer racer when I was young, I have instead, many years later, found myself writing about the reindeer (or rangifer tarandus for the classically inclined) in What is Myrrh Anyway?

For example, did you know that a reindeer calf can outrun a man at only one day old, or that the Finns once measured distance in terms of how far a reindeer could run without having to stop for a pee?

You can find more riveting reindeer facts like these hidden within the pages of What is Myrrh Anyway? - the perfect stocking filler for this Christmas!

Monday, 5 October 2009

An early Christmas present

A parcel arrived this morning from the good old U S of A, containing a couple of copies of Christmas Miscellany, the American hardback edition of What is Myrrh Anyway? published by Skyhorse Publishing.

It's a very smart publication too, in full colour throughout and fully illustrated throughout.
Even if you've already got What is Myrrh Anyway? yourself, Christmas Miscellany would make the perfect stocking filler or under-the-tree-present for a loved one, so pre-order a copy today!